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Monday, July 22, 2024  
15 Muharram 1446  

Could troubled PSG throw away French title?

The season is already widely seen as a failure for the Qatar-owned club
Kylian Mbappe may have to do without Lionel Messi alongside him in attack when Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain play this weekend. AFP
Kylian Mbappe may have to do without Lionel Messi alongside him in attack when Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain play this weekend. AFP

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain are a club in turmoil, where the coach was already under pressure before this week’s suspension of Lionel Messi and a protest by fans outside Neymar’s home.

The season is already widely seen as a failure for the Qatar-owned club, after they were dumped out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich in the last 16 and from the French Cup at the same stage.

Even though they are top of Ligue 1, five points clear of Marseille with five matches remaining and on course to retain the crown and become French champions for a record 11th time, the campaign seems to be plumbing new depths.

Last Sunday’s insipid 3-1 loss at home to Lorient means Christophe Galtier’s team have lost six of 17 Ligue 1 matches in 2023, a veritable collapse for a side who did not lose a game in any competition before the World Cup.

The day after the Lorient loss, Messi did not turn up for training, instead travelling to Saudi Arabia without PSG’s permission to fulfil commitments as part of a contract with the country’s tourist office.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has since been suspended by the club and is set to play no part this weekend against Troyes.

Another slip-up, against opponents who have not won in four months and are heading for relegation, is unthinkable for PSG and could seal Galtier’s fate.

In any case, the coach appears unlikely to be in charge next season with sweeping changes expected over the summer.

Events are being followed closely by disaffected supporters. Several hundred protested on Wednesday outside the club’s offices as well as in front of Neymar’s house in the Paris suburb of Bougival.

“We have had enough of mercenaries,” they chanted.

PSG dismissed those events as the “intolerable and insulting actions of a small group of individuals”, but it all adds to the sense of a club in disarray.

Their closest challengers, Lens and Marseille, two captivating teams who play with an intensity PSG come nowhere close to matching, face each other this weekend.

The priority for both is securing second place and automatic Champions League qualification.

PSG’s next two opponents – they play Ajaccio after facing Troyes – are both certainties for relegation and will surely not be able to handle Kylian Mbappe.

This stumbling, crisis-ridden PSG will surely, despite everything, be Ligue 1 champions again.

Player to watch: Lois Openda

The livewire 23-year-old Belgian international striker has been in outstanding form for a Lens side headed for Champions League qualification. His winner against Toulouse in midweek was his 18th Ligue 1 goal this season, meaning he has matched his tally from last year at Vitesse Arnhem, when only Sebastien Haller scored more goals in the Dutch Eredivisie.

“The level of Ligue 1 is much higher than in the Netherlands or Belgium, but I expected to score at least 15 goals. Now I can aim for 20,” Openda, who has nine goals in the last seven games, told sports daily L’Equipe this week.

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PARIS

Lionel Messi

PSG

Neymar